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Michael Stannah

The travel and leisure sector needs to maximise the impact of the customer experience while fostering an environment that puts the employee experience at the centre – with the target of achieving hyper-personalisation.

We live in a time of huge technological progress. Between now and the end of the current decade, it’s widely believed that we’ll have advanced more than in the whole of the century that preceded.

The pandemic was, of course, one catalyst for this, with digital adoption becoming more of a necessity when we were unable to connect in person, with many people carrying on with the same approach even when other options opened up again. Customer behaviours and preferred interactions have changed significantly and are set to stay.

Travel is one sector where customers are especially keen to continue their digital adoption post-pandemic. They have embraced digital booking management, online ordering and payment and virtual concierge services – and they don’t want to let them go now that they’re no longer mandatory.

Predictive analytics, automation, personalisation, digital tools, self-service and mobile capabilities –all were transforming the customer experience (CX) pre-pandemic and only became more prevalent throughout that period, moving towards the level of digital integration that younger generations want and expect.

But through all this, there’s one crucial factor: customers don’t just want to use all of these tools because they’re more convenient, or faster, or can be accessed directly from their smart phone. They want to be given an experience that’s entirely tailored to them as an individual, to a degree that was never possible in the past.

More personal than ever

Personalisation is one thing, but for today’s travel and leisure customer, it doesn’t go far enough. What they want now is hyper-personalisation.

What’s the distinction? Hyper-personalisation uses technologies like real-time data, predictive analytics, AI and machine learning to tap into individual consumer wants and needs. It delivers this so seamlessly that the consumer doesn’t even know hyper-personalisation is taking place. And this is the key: it should feel as natural and personal as a conversation with a friend who knows them; it certainly shouldn’t feel shallow or like a tick-boxing exercise by the company, something put in as a token effort that in reality makes very little difference.

Of course, to get more personal, companies need to know more about the customer. Travel and leisure consumers must be willing to share their data to receive the improved support and experiences that they crave. Organisations can capture this using behavioural insights related to, for example, location and destination, food and drink orders or preferred dining and room choices. This way, a company can personalise every aspect of the customer’s experience, making them feel recognised and appreciated.

Artificial intelligence and virtual assistance

Meanwhile, AI continues to be a major driver of CX transformation, enabling travel and leisure companies to deliver a service that is much more predictive. Harnessing data to anticipate customer behaviour and identify opportunities and issues in real time has become increasingly valuable – especially within service-led sectors.

There are many significant ways that travel and leisure companies can use AI to improve both the customer and colleague experience: from data processing and analysis to enhancing self-service opportunities, increasing operational efficiency by automating labour-intensive processes, and facilitating on-demand staff support.

Looking beyond, Web3 and the metaverse have the potential to reshape future customer experiences in ways that are as yet undefined. At this stage, the metaverse is predicted to become an addition to the channel mix, providing new ways to engage and communicate with brands.

Beware of pain points

Of course, digital has to be done right. Pain points in the digital journey can dilute the customer’s experience and irreparably damage their opinion of the brand – and right now, during a cost-of-living crisis where there’s increased competition for every pound, companies can afford brand damage less now than ever before. Channels and tools must be easy to navigate, work reliably and not be susceptible to technical issues.

Digital transformation has a powerful role to play in filling gaps in customer experience, resolving those pain points and improving efficiency. Digital tools should seamlessly integrate with human services to ensure confidence across the customer experience, regardless of channel or touchpoint. And there’s something else that travel and leisure brands must consider: how will they handle client journeys and digital adoption for individuals who are less tech aware?

Capita’s new report Transforming Travel & Leisure has identified three key trends shaping the future of the global travel and leisure sector: digital empowerment, expert economy and collective conscience.

To read more, download the full Transforming travel & leisure report:
Download our report
See our other useful resources for travel and leisure operators:
Travel and leisure resources

Written by

Michael Stannah

Michael Stannah

Client Partner - Travel & Leisure, Capita

Michael is an analytical and results oriented commercial leader with 24 years’ experience gained in the Business Process, IT and Services sectors, with the last 12 years focussed on the Travel and Leisure industry. He is driven by creating mutual value through relationships, collaborating with customers and partners to proactively help their businesses transform.

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